Can source control of pharmaceuticals decrease the investment needs in urban wastewater infrastructure?

The source control of pharmaceuticals involves influencing the everyday consumption volume and compound choice. This paper evaluates how source control contributes to protecting the environmental health and decreasing the investment needs in urban wastewater infrastructure. Different levels of reduction in diclofenac consumption (as recommended by the European Medicines Agency) compensated by equivalent increases in naproxen consumption (a less environmentally harmful compound) are evaluated. The different loads of compounds are fed into a microcontaminant fate and transport model of the Llobregat river basin (Spain) to assess the investment needs in tertiary treatment to reach diclofenac and naproxen concentrations below environmental quality standards. The results show that, despite the implementation of source control measures, tertiary treatment upgrades are still required in every scenario evaluated. Even though source control of pharmaceuticals decreases the investment needs in urban wastewater infrastructure, apparent concentrations reductions (i.e. statistically significant differences relative to the reference situation) are only observed in drastic substitutions of diclofenac by naproxen (a reduction in the total diclofenac consumption by 73% and a corresponding increase in naproxen consumption). The results also show that Spain is on good track with regards to the substitution of diclofenac by naproxen (among the top 5 in Europe), and this paper shows how positive this substitution can be for the environment.

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Laboratori d’Enginyeria Química i Ambiental

Institut de Medi Ambient
Universitat de Girona
Campus Montilivi
17003 Girona

Parc Científic i Tecnològic de la UdG
Edifici Jaume Casademont, Porta B
Pic de Peguera, 15
17003 Girona
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